The military of Algeria, formally known as the People's National Army, is the direct successor of the Armée de Libération Nationale (ALN), the armed wing of the nationalist National Liberation Front, which fought French colonial rule during the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962). It was converted and expanded into regular armed forces starting immediately after independence, and reached approximately its present size in the mid-1970s.
The Algerian military élite has played a dominating role in Algerian politics ever since independence in 1962, when the army emerged as the only effective powerbroker in a shattered political landscape dominated by weak and competing political factions. Many high-ranking officers have held public office, and it is generally recognized that the army has been, and still is, consistently involved in national policy from behind the scenes. Under Col. Houari Boumediène (1965-1978) state and army leadership was joined under his dominant and highly authoritarian presidency, but after his death, factionalization and rivalries within the military and political élites has been a major factor in Algerian politics.
After being structured as a politicized "people's army" in the Boumédiène era, and retaining its allegiance to the FLN during the single-party years of Algerian history, the military forces were formally depoliticized in 1988, as a multi-party system was introduced. This, however, did not end military influence over Algerian politics. In 1992, fearing the installation of Sharia Law, which would result in Algeria becoming an Islamic State, the Algerian Army stopped free elections that were likely to bring an Islamist party to power. This triggered the Algerian Civil War, a conflict which is believed to have claimed 100-200,000 lives during the 1990s. Both the armed forces and Islamist insurgents have been severely criticized by outside observers for their conduct of the war on humanitarian and human rights grounds. The state and army Islamist resistance in the late 1990s, but local and sporadic fighting persists in 2009, along with occasional bomb attacks against government targets in major cities. The most active insurgent group is al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, formerly known as GSPC. Since major fighting subsided in about 1997, the army has been engaged in refitting itself for the tasks of a conventional army, after more than a decade of anti-guerrilla action.
The major part of Algeria's armed forces are directed towards the country's western border with Morocco and Western Sahara, where Algeria backed a guerrilla war (1975-1991) against Moroccan control by the POLISARIO Front, a politico-military organization of Sahrawi Bedouin based in Algeria's Tindouf province. Algeria has had longstanding border disagreements with Morocco, which, although now basically resolved, continue to linger as a factor in the consistently troubled but generally non-violent relations between the two neighbouring nations. The Algerian-Moroccan land border has been closed since 1994. Both countries's armed forces have engaged in costly equipment upgrades in recent years, clearly viewing each other as the principal threat to their sovereignty, and equally reluctant to let the other nation gain the upper hand militarily.
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